|FRC wants to use churches to gain political power/|
From an email I received earlier today from the Family Research Council, it sounds as if the group wants to make churches into potential political action committees.
There is one problem, though:
Most non-profit organizations have a purpose. For example, one of FRC's purposes is to advance issues like religious freedom. It follows that as we communicate with people like you about the issues, we should also be able to speak about and endorse political candidates who share our values and purpose. This is the meaning of free speech. The same is true for other non-profits, including churches.
Whether a person wants his church to endorse or oppose political candidates is a separate question, but it should not be a question about whether or not a church has the constitutional right to do so. That right has essential been taken away by the so-called Johnson Amendment of 1954. The Johnson Amendment says that tax-exempt organizations cannot participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. It was introduced by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 after a tough reelection to the Senate, where a tax-exempt organization worked to defeat him.
The measure was passed by being hidden in a larger tax package. In fact, the Johnson Amendment was passed without any debate or hearings about its implications for churches, charities, and their leaders. Last month, FRC worked with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Representative Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 781. S. 264), to roll back the Johnson Amendment.
A non-profit organization should not lose its tax-exempt status or be threatened with audits because it exercises its constitutional right to speak in favor of political candidates who share the organization's values and mission. Now that the Free Speech Fairness Act has been introduced, we need you to urge your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor the bill. Once the Free Speech Fairness Act is passed, pastors and organizational leaders' constitutional right to free speech will be restored. Urge your senators and representative to co-sponsor this important legislation.
FRC wants churches to be able to endorse or speak against candidates, while keeping their tax-exempt statuses. The effect of this could potentially revamp the political landscape. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
According to Tom Gjelten, a correspondent with National Public Radio, pastors can already preach about social issues and political issues. Also, churches can have nonpartisan activities and voter drives. He also said the desire to overturn The Johnson Amendment is about money and power:
Conservative groups that favor a greater role for religion in the public space, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, have long sought to repeal the amendment, arguing that it restricts free speech by censoring the content of a pastor's sermon. Overturning the law, however, would also have major implications for campaign finance. If churches or clergy are allowed to participate in political campaigns, tax-free donations to the churches could go to support a political candidate. Religious organizations could become bigger money players in politics.
A more pertinent way to describe the effects of overturning The Johnson Amendment comes from Sofia Tesfaye of Salon:
Allowing churches to express political opinions isn’t the main concern of critics of Trump’s proposal to do away with the longstanding law, however. At issue is whether a tax-exempt institution can engage in electioneering and retain its tax-exempt status, according to Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. “Church members could give tax-deductible donations to a church, which would then be used by the church to campaign for a specific candidate,” Jones told Salon. “It could effectively turn churches into campaign offices and pastors into party operatives.” A religious group could begin to release campaign ads, and church members could contribute to political candidates and write it off on their taxes, for example.
“It’s important to note that the Johnson Amendment applies not only to churches but to all 501(c)3 charitable organizations,” Jones added, extending the potential ramifications of Trump’s push beyond the pulpit to campaign financing writ large. Allowing deductions would mean that the government would be subsidizing — through the tax code — the political activities and speech of churches and other tax-exempt organizations. As with most other deductions in our tax code, wealthier taxpayers in higher brackets would likely receive the biggest subsidies. “Because churches have fewer reporting requirements than PACs, it would mean even less transparency in campaign financing,” Jones argued.
While traditional political organizations must disclose their donors, 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations — who are forbidden from spending more than half of their budgets on politics — do not. Allowing charities and churches to engage in politics would almost certainly lead to a rush of dark money campaign spending by groups that don’t disclose their donors.
More dark money. More corruption. More chances for organizations like the Family Research Council to exploit churches for more political power to shape this country into the image they think it should have, as well as further erasing the line of separation between church and state.
And definitely more hell for the lgbtq community.